People are often surprised that most Black/Land stories are not about farming. Most black people live in cities, but have rich relationships to land that are not about agriculture. When given the opportunity to define their relationship to land on their own terms, even farmers and gardeners talk about land as a way of regenerating ways of knowing and ways of being in community, not simply ways to grow food. They describe the sustenance land provides as access to both physical food and cultural shelter.
The Black/Land Project exists to describe the unique and complex ways black people self-define their relationships to land. Each week in July , we will share some of the stories, and the storytellers, from The Black/Land Project.
Land as A Way of Knowing: Tayana Hardin
Tayana Hardin, is a scholar with roots in rural Kentucky. We spoke while she was a doctoral candidate at the University of Michigan.
As I’m doing this intellectual work, I’m also standing that work besides the words of my great grandparents who couldn’t read, but could tell us things like you cut your hair when the moon looks like thisor you plant when the moon looks like that. You extract a tooth when the moon looks like this. I think about … knowing how to learn and understand from a book, but then also from what the land can tell us, what the moon can tell us, what a sun dog can tell us. All these little things have really started to create a real special presence for me again as a part of the intellectual work that I’ve done.
It’s been interesting how attention to one has really helped to open up my relationship to the other, the natural world and the intellectual world. And whenever I’m writing and I get stuck, I just take a walk and to really feel that the — for lack of better word — the magic that’s happening in the trees when the leaves disappear, and know that those roots are still thriving down there, are still talking, and that there is still a magic happening even though it looks very bare up top. My own intellectual process is very much wrapped up in all of this.